HOW’S THE MARKET

After what was one of Alberta’s strongest Novembers on record for sales, we are heading into December with the lowest inventory levels in November since 2005!

The migration into Alberta continues as the population has grown to 4,543,111 which is just about 100,000 more people since the third quarter of 2021. This is putting pressure on the rental market with inventory levels well below the same time as last year, and rent prices climbing as a result. The affordability of housing compared to other major cities in Canada, along with the opportunity for jobs is continuing to keep our Province as a major draw for people to move to.

Looking back at sales in Alberta over the top five Novembers in the past ten years, the sales volume dropped through December and January, recovering to numbers higher than Novembers sales in February of the New Year. The listing inventory for those same years also dropped through December to February, recovering to higher inventories by March the following year. Over the past decade, 50% of time the average price across Alberta dropped from November through to January and then recovered to a higher average price in February than what was recorded the November prior. In that same decade, there were two years where prices increased by January, one year was in March and the other in May.

ALBERTA SHOWINGS

When we look at the showings for listings across the Province, the trends show that sellers may get one more uptick of activity this coming weekend before the Holiday slow down occurs. 

CIR REALTY SHOWINGS

The showings at CIR Realty’s listings are also showing slowing activity but the inventory under $300,000 had an increase of activity. This is likely due to higher interest rates forcing buyers to explore lower price ranges. The showings resulting in transactions is still higher than average for the year sitting around 18%, but that number is dropping week over week.

Summary

Based on all of the information above, it is reasonable to conclude that if sellers want to sell in the coming months they will need to have a compelling price for buyers. If there is a time for buyers to take advantage of lowering price points, it will likely be in December and January as markets move into balanced and in some cases, buyers markets. But we anticipate sales to increase from February through Spring with the caveat being how low the listing inventory gets as we normally don’t see listings start to climb higher until March. Without inventory, we may see lower sales numbers for longer which will keep more competitive conditions in the market. 

With population increasing, rentals being competitive, sales remaining strong and low inventory levels, it is setting us up for a competitive Spring Market in the New Year.

-Steve Phillips, CIR Realty

Canada’s slumping housing market weighs on Home Capital’s loans

The tumult in Canada’s housing market is starting to take its toll on lenders, with Home Capital Group Inc. reporting a plunge in third-quarter originations.

Home Capital, which lends largely to borrowers considered somewhat riskier than prime customers, said Tuesday that single-family mortgage originations plummeted 28 per cent from a year earlier. The lender’s so-called Alt-A borrowers include self-employed workers or those who are new to Canada and don’t have extensive credit histories. Total mortgage originations fell 23 per cent to $1.85 billion (US$1.38 billion), missing the $2.5 billion estimate of Royal Bank of Canada analyst Geoffrey Kwan. 

Sales activity in Canada’s housing market has slowed, with transactions down 32 per cent in September from a year earlier, as the Bank of Canada’s aggressive rate-hiking campaign ratchets up mortgage costs. Prices have fallen for seven straight months, and are down almost 9 per cent from their peak.

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The market spiral had yet to make its way to lenders’ results, with Canada’s biggest banks all reporting growth in their mortgage books in their most recent earnings. Home Capital’s results provide a window into a segment of borrowers who are considered riskier than those the big banks typically take on, and therefore pay more to borrow.

“The housing market is currently in a period of transition as buyers and sellers adjust to a higher-interest-rate environment,” Home Capital Chief Executive Officer Yousry Bissada said in a statement, adding that the Toronto-based company expects “softer market conditions to persist in the near term.”

The drop in originations contributed to Home Capital’s net income falling 43 per cent to $31 million, or 77 cents a share. Excluding some items, profit was 95 cents a share, matching analysts’ estimates.

Home Capital’s shares fell 4.8 per cent to $25.23 at 10:32 a.m. in Toronto, bringing their decline this year to 35 per cent. That’s the fourth-worst performance in the 29-company S&P/TSX Financials Index. 

Despite the market turmoil, Home Capital’s borrowers have continued to make payments on their mortgages. Net non-performing loans accounted for 0.16 per cent of gross loans last quarter. That compares with 0.15 per cent a year earlier and 0.47 per cent in the same period in 2020.

-Bloomberg

Winter Checklist

  • Check and clean or replace furnace air filters each month during the heating season. Ventilation systems, such as heat recovery ventilator filters, should be checked every two months.
  • After consulting your hot water tank owner’s manual, drain off a dishpan full of water from the clean-out valve at the bottom of your hot water tank to control sediment and maintain efficiency.
  • Clean your humidifier two or three times during the winter season.
  • Vacuum bathroom fan grills to ensure proper ventilation.
  • Vacuum fire and smoke detectors, as dust or spiderwebs can prevent them from functioning.
  • Vacuum radiator grills on the back of refrigerators and freezers, and empty and clean drip trays.
  • Check gauges on all fire extinguishers, and recharge or replace as necessary.
  • Check fire escape routes, door and window locks and hardware, and lighting around the home’s exterior. Ensure your family has good security habits.
  • Check the basement floor drain to ensure the trap contains water. Refill with water if necessary.
  • Monitor your home for excessive moisture levels – for instance, since condensation on your windows can cause significant damage over time and pose serious health problems, this requires corrective action.
  • Check all faucets for signs of dripping and change washers as needed. Faucets requiring frequent replacement of washers may be in need of repair or replacement.
  • If you have a plumbing fixture that’s not used frequently, such as a laundry tub or spare bathroom sink, tub or shower stall, briefly run some water to keep water in the trap.
  • Clean drains in the dishwasher, sinks, bathtubs and shower stalls.
  • Test plumbing shut-off valves to ensure they’re working and to prevent them from seizing.
  • Examine windows and doors for ice accumulation or cold air leaks. If found, make a note for repair or replacement in the spring.
  • Examine attic for frost accumulation. Check roof for ice dams or icicles. If there’s excessive frost or staining of the underside of the roof, or ice dams on the roof surface, be sure to have an expert look into the issue.
  • Check electrical cords, plugs and outlets for all indoor and outdoor seasonal lights to ensure fire safety. If showing signs of wear, or if plugs/cords feel warm, replace immediately.

CREB® 2022 Forecast: Calgary housing market expected to remain strong this year after record-breaking 2021

According to the report, housing market activity in 2022 is expected to moderate relative to record levels of activity in 2021, while remaining stronger than historical levels.

“Despite challenges with COVID-19, we are starting to see a turnaround in our job and migration numbers, and while interest rates are expected to rise, they remain relatively low. All these factors are expected to support strong housing demand into 2022,” said CREB® Chief Economist Ann-Marie Lurie. 

“The biggest question will be whether supply can meet that demand. It will take time for housing to move out of sellers’ market conditions, so we do anticipate prices will continue to rise this year.”

Rising lending rates are expected to cool some of the demand later this year, but rates are still exceptionally low, supporting strong housing sales, especially from those who experienced increased savings and equity gains throughout the pandemic.  Lurie says economic improvements are also expected to support both job and population growth, adding new sources of demand for housing.

“Despite challenges with COVID-19, we are starting to see a turnaround in our job and migration numbers, and while interest rates are expected to rise, they remain relatively low. All these factors are expected to support strong housing demand into 2022.” – CREB® Chief Economist Ann-Marie Lurie. 

During the pandemic, supply has been a struggle for many industries, including the housing market. New listings have improved, but Lurie says it has not been enough to offset high sales levels, keeping inventories relatively low and likely limiting sales growth in the market. 

As we move through 2022, Lurie says new listings in the resale market should remain relatively strong thanks to higher home prices. At the same time, the new-home sector recorded a surge in starts last year, and the completion of those starts should help add to overall supply choice in the market.

Supply levels are expected to improve relative to demand this year, according to the report. However, conditions are expected to remain relatively tight throughout the spring market, supporting further price gains. 

As the market balance gradually improves, Lurie says upward price pressure in the housing market should ease. Overall, price growth is expected to ease to four per cent in 2022.

“While conditions in the housing market are expected to remain strong, there is a significant amount of uncertainty that could impact housing,” said Lurie. 

“If supply levels remain low relative to demand, we could see stronger-than-expected price growth. On the other hand, if rates rise much faster and higher than expected, it could cause a more significant pullback in sales.”

-CREB

Bank of Canada Holds Interest Rate

The Bank of Canada announced today that it is keeping its key rate unchanged, noting that the global economy appears to be stabilizing with growth expected to edge higher in the coming years, although uncertainty relating to ongoing trade conflicts continues to be a risk. A resilient Canadian economy, with investment spending stronger than expected, has allowed the Bank to hold rates while many other countries have eased. Going forward the Bank’s rate decisions will be guided by negative impacts of trade conflicts against our sources of economic strength, which are consumer spending and housing.

The next rate-setting day is Wednesday, January 22nd.

Be sure to get in touch if you have questions about your mortgage strategy. It’s important to get advice and a personal assessment of your situation if you need a new mortgage, are renewing, looking to refinance for debt consolidation, renovations or other large expenditures.

We regularly receive short-term rate promotions that are not posted online, which means our rates change frequently. Please contact us for these unpublished rate specials.

Terms Posted Rates Our Rates
6 MONTHS 3.34% 3.30%
1 YEAR 3.59% 2.69%
2 YEARS 3.74% 2.69%
3 YEARS 3.89% 2.69%
4 YEARS 3.94% 2.69%
5 YEARS 5.34% 2.69%
7 YEARS 5.80% 2.89%
10 YEARS 6.10% 3.04%

Insured mortgage rates, subject to change. Conventional and refinance rates may be higher.
Some rates may not be available in all provinces. Consult a local Invis professional for more information. OAC. E&EO

 

Prime Rate 3.95%
5 yr variable 2.90%

 

Crunch the numbers and explore different scenarios with our website calculators.

-Invis

Eight areas to monitor to protect your home’s value and avoid costly repairs.

Whether old or new, a home is an investment worth protecting.

“The difference between a house the owner has paid attention to and one they have not can be amazing,” said Mike Becker, a home inspector for Calgary and surrounding areas with Pillar to Post Home Inspectors.

Homeowners can maintain the value of their investment by monitoring these areas of the home:

1. Property and Site

“After buying a new home, the grade and property may be in a state of settling and the most important part of this will be drainage,” said Becker. “Mature lots will typically have good drainage, but should still be monitored, particularly after major runoffs or new landscaping.”Watch for:

  • Drainage must move away from the structure.
  • Monitor during snow melts and heavy rain.
  • Most newer lots require some regrading once they settle, sometimes five to 10 years out, but always monitor.

Investment:

  • Repairs = $3 to $6 per square foot.

2. Roof

Michael Babisky, general manager at Astoria Homes, said the top concern for Calgary homeowners should be regular roof inspections. “I recommend every three to six months, especially with the frequent wind and hail here.”Watch for:

  • Implement a regular maintenance schedule for shingles and flashings after five years.
  • Characteristics of shingles near the end of usefulness: curling up, rounded edges and granule surface wearing off.
  • Caulking usually lasts three to five years and should be refreshed.
  • Inspect after severe weather.

Investment:

  • Gutter cleaning = $150 to $300.
  • Gutter replacement = $7 to $9 per linear foot.
  • Asphalt replacement = $3 to $7 per square foot.

3. Exterior

“The majority of houses are being done with vinyl siding – a good, long-lasting material, assuming it has been installed correctly,” said Becker. “Wall covering, such as siding or stucco, nearing end of life are usually very apparent.”Watch for:

  • Loose or incorrectly fitted siding around openings, where moisture can reach the structure or wind might blow siding off. Seal holes with caulking and replace damaged pieces.
  • Exterior penetrations, such as those around gas lines/meters and furnace venting, require yearly re-caulking.

Investment:

  • Repairs = $5 to $6 per square foot.
  • Replacement can be more economical than repair costs.

4. Attic

“Typically, people are only accessing the attic if they are running wires or when something has already gone wrong, especially leaks,” said Becker.Watch for:

  • Condensation from the living area can build up and stain the ceiling, or worse. • Check for condensation when it’s cold outside. Look for signs of frost on the sheathing or around the attic hatch.
  • Over time, attic insulation can lose volume, reducing its R value. Improve thermal efficiency by adding more insulation.

Investment:

  • Insulation = $2 to $5 per square foot.

5. Structure

“Usually, if there are structural problems, they’re not something that can be fixed with maintenance,” said Becker. “But monitoring is best.”Watch for:

  • Doors not opening and closing properly anymore.
  • Cracks in finishing might indicate structural problems, but don’t always require action. Monitor over time for possible moisture penetration or foundational movement.

6. Electrical

“Nearly every do-it-yourself home renovation project I have seen (involving electrical) has safety issues,” said Becker. “Get an electrician, I cannot say this enough.”Watch for:

  • Mis-wired receptacles can damage electronics or cause shocks, sparks and/or fires.
  • Professional installations should be maintenance-free unless something fails, like a ground fault circuit breaker/receptacle. These should be replaced.
  • A very hot distribution panel might indicate problems. Don’t touch it, call an electrician.

Investment:

  • Repairs = $150 to $250 per hour, plus material costs.

7. Heating

“There will come a time when replacing the furnace heating system will be more economical than the repairs and maintenance, but I have inspected many houses with furnaces 25-plus years old that have been well maintained,” said Becker.Watch for:

  • Prior to winter each year, Becker suggests opening the front panels to take a picture of the furnace for yearly comparison. Water or rust indicate it might be time for inspection.
  • Yearly furnace cleaning is key to maximizing its life, Babisky says. “Clean the humidifier at the same time.”
  • Replace filters every six months.
  • After 10 years, implement a regular furnace maintenance schedule, with inspection by an HVAC professional.

Investment:

  • Annual service and cleaning = $250 to $500.
  • Furnace replacement = $3,600 to $4,700.

8. Plumbing

“Get leaks fixed as soon as possible,” said Becker.Watch for:

  • Leaks around slow-draining sinks, bathtubs and showers.
  • Less available hot water or the pilot light repeatedly going out. Repairs can often add years to appliances.
  • Water heaters typically last 10 to 15 years, but can fail at any time, usually unexpectedly.

Investment:

  • Repairs = $150 to $250 per hour, plus material costs.
  • Water heater replacement = $800 to $1000.

 

-Natalie Noble

Job market weakness and lending restrictions a common thread in 2018’s housing market

As oversupply continues in Calgary’s housing market, December prices eased by one per cent compared to last month and are over three per cent below last December.

“Persistent weakness in the job market and changes in the lending market impacted sales activity in the resale market this year,” said CREB® chief economist Ann-Marie Lurie.

“This contributed to elevated supply in the resale market, resulting in price declines.”

December sales totalled 794 units, a 21 per cent decline over the previous year. Overall year-to-date sales in the city totalled 16,144 units. This is a 14 per cent decline over 2017 and nearly 20 per cent below long-term averages.

Inventory levels in December sat at 4,904 units. This is well above levels recorded last year and 30 per cent above typical levels for the month. Elevated resale inventories in 2018 were caused by gains in the detached and attached sectors.

Throughout 2018, the months of supply remained elevated and averaged 5.2 months. This contributed to the annual average benchmark price decline of 1.5 per cent. Price declines occurred across all product types and have caused citywide figures to remain over nine per cent below the monthly highs recorded in 2014.

“Both buyers and sellers faced adjustments in expectations this year. Sellers had to compete with more choice in the resale market, but also the new-home market,” said CREB® president Tom Westcott.

“With less people looking for a home, it became a choice between delaying when to sell or adjusting the sale price. However, buyers looking for more affordable product did not find the same price adjustments that existed in some of the higher price ranges.”

 

HOUSING MARKET FACTS

Detached

  • Detached sales declined across all districts in 2018. With citywide sales of 9,945 units, activity remains 21 per cent below typical levels for the year.
  • Detached inventories were higher than last year’s levels for each month of the year, including December. Slow sales caused the market to be oversupplied through most of 2018.
  • Detached benchmark prices totalled $481,400 in December, a one per cent decline over last month and a three per cent decline over last year. Overall, 2018 prices declined by 1.5 per cent compared to last year.
  • Prices have eased across most districts in 2018. The largest declines this year have occurred in the North East, North West and North districts.

 

Apartment

  • Apartment sales totalled 2,663 units in 2018. While the decline is less than other product types, levels are 22 per cent below long-term averages.
  • The apartment condominium sector has struggled with oversupply for almost three years and 2018 was no exception.
  • However, supply has been easing, as inventories this year averaged 1,584 units, one per cent below last year’s levels.
  • Despite slowing supply growth, the market remained oversupplied, causing further price declines. In December, benchmark prices were $251,500, over two per cent below last year. Annually, prices have declined by nearly three per cent for a total decline of 14 per cent since 2014.
  • Price declines this year have ranged from a high of nearly six per cent in the East district to a low of two per cent in both the City Centre and North West districts.

 

Attached

  • Declines for both row and semi-detached product resulted in 2018 attached sales of 3,536 units, a 15 per cent decline over the previous year and 14 per cent below long-term averages.
  • Slower sales activity prompted some pull-back in new listings, but this was limited to the row sector. Row new listings declined by four per cent and semi-detached new listings rose by nearly 15 per cent in 2018.
  • Despite some adjustments to new listings, inventory levels remained elevated, keeping the market in buyers’ market territory and putting downward pressure on prices.
  • In December, the semi-detached benchmark price totalled $397,500. This is a monthly and year-over-year decline of 0.8 and 3.8 per cent, respectively. Recent price declines have caused this sector to erase any of the gains that occurred last year, as 2018 prices remain just below 2017 levels. Overall, annual prices remain 1.4 per cent below 2014 peak levels.
  • Row prices have also been edging down. As of December, row prices were $288,400, a 1.5 per cent decline from last month and nearly four per cent below last year’s levels. Overall, 2018 prices remain two per cent below last year’s levels and nearly 10 per cent below previous highs.

 

REGIONAL MARKET FACTS

Airdrie

  • In 2018, the Airdrie housing market was distinctly marked by oversupply and signs of buyers’ market conditions. Compared to last year, inventory levels and months of supply have been significantly higher, combined with lower levels of sales. This has led to downward pressures on the benchmark price for detached homes.
  • Annual residential sales exhibited a year-over-year decline of 14 per cent and were almost 19 per cent lower than activity over the past 5 years. This consistent decline was observed across all product types.
  • Supply in 2018 was at record-high levels, with new listings achieving a new year-to-date peak for most of the year. Inventories have also been continuously increasing throughout this year and are 12 per cent higher than in 2017. Months of supply have increased steadily and averaged 5.6 months in 2018.
  • Persistent oversupply has resulted in a decline in Airdrie prices.  In 2018 detached benchmark prices averaged $369,042, over two percent below last year

 

Cochrane

  • Declining by 64 units, 2018 sales in Cochrane were lower than the previous year. However, an annual count of 599 sales remains comparable to activity over the past three years.
  • In 2018 there were 1,288 new listings, the highest on record.  Elevated new listings and easing sales resulted in rising inventories and months of supply that averaged nearly 7 months.
  • Elevated supply has caused detached prices to trend down over the second half of the year, however, it was not enough to offset earlier gains.  In 2018, detached benchmark prices have remained comparable to last year.

 

Okotoks

  • 2018 residential sales in Okotoks were 463 units, a decline over last year and comparable to 2010 activity.
  • Gains in new listings combined with slower sales resulted in rising inventory and excess supply in this market.
  • Despite increased supply and weak sales, detached home prices in Okotoks showed modest increases in 2018. The average detached benchmark price totalled $434,875, which is one per cent higher than last year.

 

-CREB

Mortgage Loan Insurance: Quick Reference Guide

This handy quick reference tool provides helpful information to submit applications to CMHC for homeowner and small rental loans, for all CMHC programs: Purchase, Improvement, Newcomers, Self-Employed, Green Home, Portability, and Income Property.

Benefits of mortgage insurance

Some of the benefits of CMHC mortgage loan insurance include:

  • Available for purchase of an existing residential property with or without improvements and for new construction financing.
  • Our Green Home program offers a partial mortgage loan insurance premium refund of up to 25%. Refunds are available directly to borrowers who buy, build or renovate for energy efficiency using CMHC-insured financing. Find out more with our Green Home Program.
  • Self-employed borrowers with documentation to support their income have access to CMHC mortgage loan insurance.
  • Our portability feature saves money for repeat users of mortgage loan insurance by reducing or eliminating the premium payable on the new insured loan for the purchase of a subsequent home.

Loan-to-Value (LTV) ratios

For homeowner loans (owner-occupied properties), the Loan-to-Value ratio for 1–2 units is up to 95% LTV. For 3–4 units, the ratio is up to 90% LTV.

For small rental loans (non-owner occupied), the ratio is up to 80% LTV.

Minimum equity requirements

For homeowner loans, the minimum equity requirement for 1–2 units is 5% of the first $500,000 of lending value and 10% of the remainder of the lending value. For 3–4 units, the minimum equity requirement is 10%.

For small rental loans, the minimum equity requirement is 20%.

Purchase price / lending value, amortization and location

For both homeowner and small rental loans, the maximum purchase price / lending value or as-improved property value must be below $1,000,000.

The maximum amortization period is 25 years.

The property must be located in Canada and must be suitable and available for full-time, year-round occupancy. The property must also have year-round access including homes located on an island (via a vehicular bridge or ferry).

Traditional and non-traditional down payments

traditional down payment comes from sources such as savings, the sale of a property, or a non-repayable financial gift from a relative.

non-traditional down payment must be arm’s length and not tied to the purchase and sale of the property, either directly or indirectly such as unsecured personal loans or unsecured lines of credit. Non-traditional down payments are available for 1–2 units, with 90.01% to 95% LTV, with a recommended minimum credit score of 650.

Creditworthiness

At least one borrower (or guarantor) must have a minimum credit score of 600. In certain circumstances, a higher recommended minimum credit score may be required. CMHC may consider alternative methods of establishing creditworthiness for borrowers without a credit history.

Debt service guidelines

The standard threshold is GDS 35% / TDS 42%. The maximum threshold is GDS 39% / TDS 44% (recommended minimum credit score of 680). CMHC considers the strength of the overall mortgage loan insurance application including the recommended minimum credit scores.

Interest rates

The GDS and TDS ratios must be calculated using an interest rate which is the greater of the contract interest rate or the Bank of Canada’s 5-year conventional mortgage interest rate.

Advancing options

Single advances include improvement costs less than or equal to 10% of the as-improved value.

Progress advances include new construction financing or improvement costs greater than 10% of the as-improved value. With Full Service, CMHC validates up to 4 consecutive advances at no cost. For Basic Service, the Lender validates advances without pre-approval from CMHC.

Non-permanent residents (homeowner loans only)

Non-permanent residents must be legally authorized to work in Canada (i.e. a work permit). Mortgage loan insurance is only available for non-permanent residents for homeowner loans for 1 unit, up to 90% LTV, with a down payment from traditional sources.

-CMHC

What to know if you’re considering a mortgage from an alternative lender.

Samantha Brookes has been warning Canadians to take a close look at the clauses in their mortgage contracts for years, but her refrain has become a bit more prevalent in recent months.

Since the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions’ mortgage stress test was implemented in January, the founder of the Mortgages of Canada brokerage has seen “a huge influx” of Canadians who fail to qualify for a bank mortgage turning to alternative lenders that range from risky loan sharks to larger, more conventional companies like Home Trust.

While alternative lenders can provide a lifeline for Canadians who have run out of other financing options, Brookes said they come with pitfalls for those who don’t bother looking at the fine print.

“You need to read those contracts,” she said. “(With an alternative lender), the interest rates are higher, the qualifying rate is higher than if you were going with a traditional bank and they are going to charge one per cent of the mortgage amount (as a lender’s fee) for closing, so that means your closing costs increase.”

Alternative lenders tend to offer less wiggle room on their terms, so Brookes said that means you should pay special attention to another dangerous term she’s seen slipped into mortgage contracts: the sale-only clause.

It’s less common, Brookes said, but if left in, it might mean the only way you can break your mortgage is by selling your home. She usually makes sure it’s nixed from her clients contracts immediately.

She also advises mortgage-seekers to research a potential lender’s reputation, which can easily be done online. Looking up some lenders will reveal their involvement in growing strings of court cases, she said.

“If they are constantly in court fighting with consumers for money, are you willing to put yourself at risk with that kind of person?” Brookes recommended asking yourself.

Still, she said alternative lenders “that don’t end up in court every two seconds” are out there and can offer a good mortgage, if you do your research.

Broker Ron Alphonso has seen what happens when you don’t look into your lender. He recently heard from a couple who borrowed $100,000 via a paralegal posing as a broker, who then convinced the couple to give the money back to him so he could invest it on their behalf. Instead of investing it, the paralegal disappeared to Sri Lanka with the funds, leaving the couple on the hook for the money and resulting in eviction from their home.

“They got very, very poor advice,” Alphonso said. “Apparently the person that arranged the mortgage was an agent and paralegal that has since been disbarred. If they had a lawyer working for them, at least the lawyer could have said (before they signed the mortgage) maybe this isn’t right.”

Alphonso recommends seeking advice from a broker, who he said should also be questioned about how tolerant a lender will be if you were to default on one of your payments.

Some lenders quickly force their clients into a power-of-sale or foreclosure, while others will find a way to work out an arrangement that will allow them to keep their home.

“If you are already in some kind of financial problem and you go to a lender that is not flexible, you make the situation worse,” Alphonso said. “If you miss one payment, (within) 15 days you can be in power-of-sale.”

When that happens, he often sees people refuse to leave their home and try to fight the power-of-sale or foreclosure. They take the matter to court and end up spending tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees that can eclipse any remaining equity they might have in their home.

If they lose their case, which Alphonso said happens often, they end up with a massive lawyer’s bill, no equity to cover it and no place to live.

That’s part of why he said those seeking financing should have an exit strategy to get out of any mortgages they sign with an alternative or private lender with a higher interest rate.

“Your goal should always be to get to a lower interest rate,” he said. “If they don’t go in with a true goal of how to get out of this private mortgage, there will be a problem down the road.”

Alphonso recommended looking for an open mortgage, where you can prepay any amount at any time without a compensation charge or a prepayment limit that you would often find in a closed mortgage.

Open mortgages come with higher interest rates, but give buyers the option to switch to a cheaper lender if something happens. However, switching does often come with penalties, he said.

Because some agents and brokers don’t give enough information or fully explain penalties and clauses, he said the best way to keep out of trouble when seeking a mortgage is to ask lots of questions and understand what you’re getting into before signing on the dotted line.

-TARA DESCHAMPS, Globe & Mail